Part 5: Out of the Abundance of the Heart
True confessions time: when I considered writing a historical romance, there was only one aspect that bothered me. I could not see myself writing the kind of graphic love scenes found in most romances today. I remembered how much mileage authors like Mary Stewart could get just from the moment their characters kissed. My favorite classic authors, including Jane Austen, managed to evoke lovely and sigh-inducing romances with even less. My goal was to write books that were rich with the joy and sizzle of the romance, while leaving the more explicit details to the reader’s imagination.
As I wrote the book, I also began to realize that because Geoffrey had been a clergyman, he would quite naturally approach his problems from a Christian perspective. As the third son, he was not expected to inherit his father’s title, and his decision to go into the church would have been quite in line with the times. But his occupation also gave me an avenue to explore some themes I hadn’t originally considered. Themes of love and forgiveness become more poignant when someone who has preached Christ for a living finds himself in a very challenging situation where rendering forgiveness to someone else is difficult indeed.
I’ve been a student of the Bible for years, and I approach most everything in life from a very positive perspective. I think that even explains why I love romance stories and those wonderful classic musicals—they have what we romance writers call “emotionally satisfying and optimistic” endings. We like to believe that things will work out in the end, that troubles can be overcome and problems solved. The hero and heroine work hard to achieve their happily ever after, and we as readers want them to get it.
As I continued writing my book, one day I had a surprising thought: “I think I’m writing an inspirational romance!” I hadn’t set out to do that, but the Bible says that “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” What was so intrinsically a part of my life was bound to flow out in my writing.
At that point—more true confessions, here!—I figured I’d better read an inspirational romance to see if that’s what I was writing! I hadn’t actually read one before. So I went out and read a good cross-section from well-respected inspy authors, and the answer was—well, yes and no. Most people who have never read an inspirational romance worry that they will be too “preachy.” As I picked up my first inspy to read, I worried about that, too. Happily, that was not the case at all. I enjoyed them very much. But at times I missed what I call the “sizzle” of romance. I wanted my own books to explore more deeply those very real feelings and physical reactions that people have when they are falling in love.
So, I was left with a decision. What should I do? I could not ignore the Christian themes underlying my story, but at the same time, I did not want those themes to push the romance and the plot to the sidelines. So I decided to follow some very sound advice that I’d received from my fellow authors, and that was to write the kind of book that I personally would want to read. And that’s exactly what I did. I allowed my book to be influenced by the rich vocabulary of the classics I loved, by the joyous fun of the movies I loved, and by the heartfelt love for God that was in my soul. I just allowed the story to follow its own path.
It is a truth generally acknowledged that very few writers ever sell the first book they write. I was warned that I’d most likely have to write many books before I made my first sale, and I was prepared for that. In the end, however, my story turned out quite differently.
Next up: A Match Made on Twitter